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WHO Declares Global Health Emergency As Ebola Death Toll Nears 1,000

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The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a public health emergency of international concern on Friday.

The organization is encouraging global coordination to prevent the spread of both the disease and of "fear and misinformation," according to Keiji Fukuda, the organization's Assistant Director-General.

"This is an infectious disease that can be retained," he said, noting the region's poor conditions and need for help. "It's not a mysterious disease."

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan echoed the sentiment, noting that the epidemic "is the largest, most severe, and most complex outbreak." 

"Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own," she said.

Stateside, two Americans who contracted the virus in Liberia have been taken to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital, and the Centers for Disease Control has also elevated its state of alert:

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) has warned that the WHO statement, while necessary, needs to be coupled with action. MSF Director of Operations Dr. Bart Janssens released the following statement:

Declaring Ebola an international public health emergency shows how seriously WHO is taking the current outbreak, but statements won't save lives.

Now we need this statement to translate into immediate action on the ground. For weeks, MSF has been repeating that a massive medical, epidemiological and public health response is desperately needed to save lives and reverse the course of the epidemic.

Lives are being lost because the response is too slow.

There have been 961 deaths and 1,711 cases reported throughout Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The fatality rate of this outbreak is 55 percent. 

This article was originally published at http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/08/who-declares-global-health-emergency-as-ebola-death-toll-nears-1000/375779/

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